CONTEXT:

The Lom Pangar dam is located on the Lom River in a remote part of eastern Cameroon, 13km upstream from the confluence with the Sanaga River. With an expected installed capacity of just 30 MW, Lom Pangar’s vast reservoir would primarily be operated to regulate the flows of the Lom River to the 918km Sanaga River—Cameroon’s largest river whose basin covers a quarter of the country. This would boost year-round output from existing dams on the Sanaga, as well as make additional planned dams downstream more attractive.

PROJECT IMPACTS:

Cameroon forms part of the Congo Basin rainforest, the source of a significant share of the continent’s biodiversity, and serves as home to apes such as the central chimpanzee and gorillas, both of which are endangered. Because of their role in dispersing seeds and maintaining forest health, these apes have been called “forest gardeners” and are noted for their contribution toward sustaining the rich biodiversity in Cameroon. An important number of Cameroon’s gorillas inhabit the Deng Deng National Park and its environs. The Deng Deng was established first as a forest reserve in 1971, containing one of Africa’s last hardwood forests and key habitats for endangered lowland gorillas and chimpanzees as well as African forest elephants, buffaloes and bongos, giant Pangolin, Yellow backed duiker, among others. The Lom Pangar reservoir submerged a portion of the Deng Deng despite its status as a national park. Other project-induced impacts included concerns over poaching, electrocution, and habitat degradation.

IMPACTS ON FRESHWATER SPECIES

The World Bank noted that filling the reservoir would “trigger major impacts [including] changes in seasonal water flows that modify the ecology of the Sanaga River downstream to the estuary,” a distance of nearly 1000 km. Among the impacts not accounted for are those resulting from the lack of seasonal variations and fluctuations in water level at the Sanaga River estuary, where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. Fluctuations in the salinity at the mouth of the Sanaga are critical for the continuation of fishing and other ecosystem services that local communities depend on. The Sanaga River sustains mangrove forests at its mouth that are rich in biodiversity, which typically provide “coastal protection during high tides and storms, and spawning grounds for fish that supported the livelihoods of local communities.”

Biodiversity Snapshot

IUCN red list species & status: 72 medium to large mammals present within DDNP and surroundings, 12 of which on IUCN red list (Lom Pangar Project Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, March 2011).

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

Western lowland gorilla

ENDANGERED

Central chimpanzee

VULNERABLE

Black colobus

PROJECT IMPACTS

LESSONS

LOM PANGAR

Cameroon

The dam’s vast reservoir has impacted critically endangered gorilla populations and is expected to severely impact freshwater ecosystems along the 900 km Sanaga River

Endangered central chimpanzee

Image by Afrika Expeditionary Force

Congo Basin Rainforest

Image by Ingrid Schulzel; sourced from Mongabay

Critically endagered Western lowland gorilla

Image by Francesco Ungaro

Biodiversity Snapshot

IUCN red list species & status: 72 medium to large mammals present within DDNP and surroundings, 12 of which on IUCN red list (Lom Pangar Project Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, March 2011).

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

Western lowland gorilla

ENDANGERED

Central chimpanzee

VULNERABLE

Black colobus

Company: China Three Gorges

Subsidiary: China International Water & Electric

Impact Category

Great Apes

Impact Category

Protected Area

Impact Category

Biodiversity Hotspot

CAPACITY

30 MW

COST

$195 million​

STATUS

Delayed
Construction of the dam was completed ahead of time, but provision and installation of turbines and transmission lines has been delayed.

1.

Cumulative impact assessments examining the potential impacts on the entire length of a river, including on coastal ocean areas, wetlands, and estuaries should be conducted for regulating dams such as Lom Pangar.

2.

Projects located in close proximity to the critical natural habitats of ape populations should be avoided because of the unacceptable level of risk of induced impacts.

3.

Financing mechanisms to ensure the long-term viability of national parks established as offsets should be established and functional prior to project completion.